Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Grizzlies beat Timberwolves to tie series

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE (AP) – The Memphis Grizzlies responded to losing their first game as a number two seed by getting back to how they play.

The result? The largest margin of victory in franchise history in a playoff game and a near triple-double by Ja Morant.

The All-Star point guard scored 23 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds as the Grizzlies looked much more like the team that posted the NBA’s second-best record, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-96 early yesterday to even up their first-round Western Conference series at one apiece.

Morant went to the bench with 4:40 left to a huge ovation and teammates telling him how close he was to a triple-double.

“It was good to get that win,” Morant said.

“Obviously, you know, if you get a triple-double, it’s hard to do it in this league, so that’s special as well. But the win is the important thing, and we got that.” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said Morant showed great balance along with the bench outscoring Minnesota 60-43 and defence fuelling the offence.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant shoots. PHOTO: AP

Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr each added 16 with Jackson hitting four of seven from three-point range.

Seven Grizzlies finished in double figures with Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr and Ziaire Williams each having 13. Tyus Jones added 10.

Game Three is today (tomorrow, 7.30am Brunei time) in Minneapolis.

Anthony Edwards, who scored 36 points in his playoff debut in Game 1, led Minnesota with 20. All-Star centre Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Naz Reid and Taurean Prince had 12 each off the bench, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.

“It shows just how physical and locked-in you’ve got to be every single night regardless of the opponent,” Towns said. “A small lapse, mental, and you see what the game comes out to be in the playoffs.”

The Timberwolves dominated the series opener after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.

This time, officials stayed very busy calling 20 fouls in a very long first quarter.

That kept the NBA’s top scoring teams in the regular season from getting into any rhythm as they combined to shoot 33 free throws.

Foul trouble forced Jenkins to turn to Tillman who didn’t play in Game One, and he turned in the best playoff game of his young career.

The Grizzlies grabbed their biggest lead of this short series at 30-23 on a floater by Jones with 2:11 left, and they led 33-32 after the first quarter when Morant’s long buzzer-beater attempt hit off the rim and off.

“Then our offence just dried up. Our shot selection in the second quarter basically started the avalanche,” said Minnesota coach Chris Finch, who added that the Grizzlies also started controlling the glass.

The Grizzlies shot 48 per cent from the floor compared to 40 per cent for Minnesota. Both teams made 11 threes, a big difference from the series opener when Minnesota knocked down 16 of 41 compared to seven of 27 for Memphis.

Memphis started running in the second and opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished on an 11-5 run for a 60-49 lead at halftime with Morant not scoring a point. Patrick Beverley summed up Minnesota’s struggles when his layup before the buzzer rolled off the rim.

The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 27 with a 25-9 run in the third, and Morant scored 12 in the quarter hitting five of seven shots, including both three-pointers.

His layup gave Memphis a 87-60 lead with 4:15 to go in the third, and the Grizzlies led 96-77 going into the fourth.

Minnesota was the NBA’s best-shooting team outside the arc and outscored Memphis 48-21 in Game 1 as the Grizzlies shooting 26 per cent outside the arc with only three knocking down a three-pointer.

This time, Memphis shot 11-of-34 with six Grizzlies knocking down at least one.